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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Stewardship

Man is steward to God’s creation.  This is clearly man’s most important task, yet what religion really makes a point of this? (This renders these religions suspect as divine word.) According to the Bible, God created man to dress and keep the Garden of Eden, (his only task,) (Ge 2:15) but over the earth (Ge 1:28) man was given dominion.  Man was commanded to subdue the earth. Man was also commanded to replenish the earth. This seems to be interpreted to mean ‘replenish with more people,’ although the previous phrase is, “be fruitful and multiply,” so for that it seems needlessly redundant. Indeed, stewardship often seems secondary to ruthless exploitation.

Christ has a few parables about stewardship, but they are not usually taken as central to Christianity.

And man is failing in his care of the earth.  The seas are overfished, and turning acidic.   And rising.  The whole planet is warming. Air and water are increasingly polluted.  Soil is increasingly depleted.  Animals are going extinct at an alarming rate, as their habitat is destroyed.

There are too many people, and they consume and pollute too much.  Yet the religious, especially the fundamentalists, hold to the admonishment to be fruitful and multiply, though that was given thousands of years ago, when man was still light upon the land. 

Now mankind is a burden the earth can no longer easily carry, and getting heavier with each passing day.   The question becomes:  Which will happen first?  Will man restrain his appetite in time?  Or will he drive his ecosystem to collapse around him, leaving him bereft and starving for resources?  And what can happen then, save the Apocalypse?

There are those awaiting the Apocalypse:  Why worry about conserving the world, when God is going to trash it anyway?  They don’t think that maybe He has to trash it because they ruined it.

So what can the alternative be?  First attitudes must be changed.  Things must be redefined.  The notion of property, for instance, must be changed.  It can no longer be ‘that which is owned,’ with the implication that the ‘owner’ has the option to exploit or even destroy, but must become ‘that which is used,’ that the ‘user’ has the obligation to conserve what he uses for others both in the present and the future.

The notion of a limit to growth, both in terms of resources consumed and number of people the earth can support, must become current.  This will be difficult, perhaps insuperable.  Everyone wants more, and with a pie that isn’t growing, this can only come at the expense of others.  People will want more, and want more children.  Many will point to the dictates of their religion, and refuse to limit their own behavior. (After all, they are the chosen.  The rest of the world is- inferior.)

Pursuits of the spirit, specifically meditation and the training of the mind, must be encouraged.  Indeed, they should become a part of everyone’s formal education.  The mind must be taught to be able to make itself happy, instead of anxious over whether or not it has this or that possession.    People must learn to make do with fewer material things, and more non-material things.  They must ‘store up treasures in heaven,’ and to value themselves, and each other, more.  The cycle of material desire must be broken.

But this is just the beginning.  Active steps must also be taken.    

10:33 pm est

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Cycle of Desire

Most religions tout the promise of a heaven. It is the reward of the faithful, after they die, for their life of faith. And the faithful believe this heaven is a desirable place, and that they, the faithful, desire it. 

 

But is it a place?  After all, no matter where you are, happiness is really a state of mind.  Granted, some places are better than others, but unless your mind is happy, the place you're in really doesn't matter.  A person can be miserable in what, to others, would be paradise. 

 

Of course, paradise can be hell.  Consider the parable of the man who loved to fish:  A man loved to fish, more than anything else.  He died and went to what seemed to be heaven, a marvelous resort, with numerous staff to attend him, where everyday he could fish. He did.  And every day he caught a big fish, which he brought back to the resort to be prepared for his supper.  And this went on.  But eventually the man who loved to fish grew tired of always catching the big fish, and questioned his host.  His host smiled, and asked him what made him think he had actually gone to heaven.   

 

But the same question can be asked of any heaven which consists of ostensible wish fulfillment:  Do you really want all your wishes granted?  After all, the granting of wishes, particularly material wishes, is really not the point. The point of getting what you want is what getting what you want is supposed to provide, which is pleasure, and happiness.  But pleasure and happiness are states of mind, and can be gotten directly, without the intervention of material desires, (as long as reasonable necessities are taken care of.)  And indeed, the granting of material desires is irrelevant, because it is merely the conditioning of the mind which causes the mind to respond with happiness and pleasure at the granting of its desires. 

 

But the mind's pleasure at the granting of desire is transitory.  The mind soon returns to the (less happy) state it was in before the desire was fulfilled.  And so it must manufacture a new desire, which it then seeks to fulfill so that it can once again experience the glow of pleasure that it experiences in its fulfillment.  This is the cycle of desire which the devotees of Buddhism are instructed to extinguish.  (The cycle of desire is not always obvious.  There are people who are happy being miserable.  For them the cycle of the formation and frustration of their desires makes them happy.)

 

So it is really not the granting of desire which the point.  It is the pleasure, the happiness, of the mind directly which is the point.  And this is the goal of certain forms of meditation, to train the mind to directly experience pleasure and happiness. 

 

But this is arduous. These forms of meditation can demand hours of practice every day.  The mind resists perpetual happiness.  The experience of pleasure and happiness is, in its way, stressful, and the mind wearies of it, returning to its more normal state.

 

So what of the various heavens of perpetual bliss?  Well, if people truly desired it, would they not seek theirs, their bliss, out in this life, like those who practice meditation, instead of occupying themselves with the cares and worries of this world?  After all, it is more state of mind than place. And how better to show you are ready for such a state of mind, such a state of soul, after death than training yourself for it in this life?  Yet, people do not do this, instead clinging to the cycle of desire and its fulfillment. 

 

Is this then, people's true desire?  Or are people merely uninformed, poorly educated by those who themselves are misinformed, in getting what they truly want?  Consider Jannah, the Islamic heavens, various (high) degrees of wish fulfillment for the faithful.  Or the Christian heavens, qualities of perpetual bliss which the faithful, who can achieve these states of closeness to God, (as have many of their saints,) at least temporarily in this life, show no signs of actually doing.      

 

So perhaps, the cycle of desire and its fulfillment is their desire, and this world, then, their heaven.

8:52 pm est

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Perfect

We tend to think of God only in positives. Indeed, we tend to think of God as positively perfect. This naturally reinforces our own good feelings about ourselves, since we are also God.  We each believe this, that we are God, on the most primitive unconscious level.  And it is true. But when we view God in only positive superlatives, we imagine a distorted view of God.  And we flatter our inmost self, and present our conscious self with a distorted view of that self.    

It is more difficult to imagine the negative aspects of God, (who is all things,) since these must, on some level of unconsciousness, be understood as negative aspects of our self.  Thus, to admit that God is also responsible for the evil in the world, as a being responsible for all things, we must admit that we ourselves, being God,  are also responsible for this evil. Externalizing this responsibility, even to creating instead an alternative, external personage, a devil, and making it responsible for all evil, is one way out of our taking this personal responsibility.  When we deny that God is responsible for the evil in the world, we are absolving our own unconscious self.  Yet this evil is part of the world's perfection. 

This also works the other way.  It may be easy for us to admit to our human failings, but difficult to admit that God has these same failings.  That is because, on some level of the unconscious, we regard human failings as mere failings of appearance, or of circumstance,  and not the essential failings that they are.  Unconsciously, at the deepest level, since we are each God,  we regard ourselves as infallible, and perfect.  Thus, it is always a source of dissonance when our perfect plans, which after all always originate from, or always seem to originate from, or at the least always gain the approval , from our 'perfect' unconscious selves,  go awry.   Fallible appearance conflicts with perfect essence.

 This all arises from our imperfect understanding of perfect.  We tend to understand perfect as perfect in an appearance, that is, in the limited aspects which we can appreciate, rather in the complete and total essence which is truly required for something to be truly perfect. Thus, what is truly perfect may have the appearance of imperfection in our limited perspective.  That is we would judge what is truly perfect to be imperfect.  And conversely, we would judge what had the appearance of perfection to our limited perspective, yet which was truly imperfect, as perfect.  We would judge the perfect as imperfect, and the imperfect as perfect. 

Further, that which was truly perfect, such as God, we would imagine as perfect according to our limited imagining, but not according to the totality of truth.  But since a perfect God in essence would appear imperfect to that imagining, so imagining God as perfect in that limited sense implies the imagining of a God who is not truly perfect.  By imagining God to conform to our image of perfection, we result in a distorted image of a God who is imperfect.  

We think God as perfect.  We say God is perfect.  But a God conforming to our image of perfection would be imperfect.

 Of course, we cannot admit that this imagined God is imperfect.  We imagine our image of God is perfect, despite the fact that this image no longer corresponds to reality, the truly perfect God.  This results in idolatry, the worship of our imagining, rather than the true God.

Consider too that we, and our world, are imperfect, (even to our imperfect perceptions,) and therefore what we perceive, and conceive, as perfect is also actually imperfect.  But this imperfection is an aspect of perfection.  For consider, if everything had the seeming of perfection, the world would be maddeningly imperfect indeed.  Yet, this is what heaven is often imagined to be, a place terribly imperfect in essence because it was perfect according to our imperfect judgment.   

We imagine a perfect God without negative aspects.   We are thus at a loss to explain the darker aspects the of reality that is God's creation, which are equally necessary to its perfection.  It is the perfect creation of a perfect God, imperfect as it is. And imperfect as God is.

Of course, none of this means we must not cultivate our garden, in this best of all possible worlds. Nor does it mean we should not strive to improve it.

9:38 pm est

Monday, June 30, 2014

Ethics without God

To those who say that God, a God,  is necessary for the development of a moral, or ethical individual, the Chinese present numerous counter examples. The Chinese have developed a cultural ethic without the belief in monotheism. 

 This does not imply the absence of belief systems among the Chinese: 

"The largest group of religious traditions is the Chinese folk religion, which overlaps with Taoism, and describes the worship of the shen, a term describing local deities, heroes and ancestors and figures from Chinese mythology."...

Taoism dates back to the sage Laozi  in 6th century BCE China, and refers to a variety of related philosophical and religious concepts, of which 'non-action' and spontaneity might be considered the most important. Taoism, Daojiao, '(The) Way Teach(ing),' venerates no particular deity.

..." According to a survey conducted in 2010, hundreds of millions of people practice some kind of Chinese folk religions and Taoism; of these 754 million (56.2%) people practice Chinese ancestral veneration, only 215 million (16%) believing in the existence of ancestral shen." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_China

Shen*: (god, diety, spirit, mind)  seems  to be the term closest to 'God,' though no compound containing it seems to refer to 'The God'  The combined form tianshen, (tian: heaven, sky, nature, god)  yields "sky spirits."   There is also zhu: owner, master, God;  zhenzhu: true master,  tianzhu:  heavenly master.  (My guess is that the use of zhu as representing 'God,' is a relatively recent development, dating to the arrival of Christian missionaries in China in the 16th century.)  The very fact that there is no particular definitive term (one wouldn't refer to one's landlord as 'God,' ) suggests the concept of a monotheistic God was not as important in Chinese culture as in the West.  That is to say, the concept a monotheistic God was not, and is not, central to Chinese cultural and ethical development.  

What does seem to be important is the role of exemplar.  Role models are important, and numerous:  Parents, especially during the formative years, the rulers, and the wealthy, in the present, and in the past, the aristocracy.  Setting examples for others is a primary aspect of their leadership. They are thus not only expected to preach virtues, but to practice them in their daily lives.  

These role models do not exist in a vacuum, but in the context of a moral culture going back thousands of years.   Deities, heroes, ancestors, especially ones own ancestors, and figures from Chinese mythology all provide models.  But central to the development of this culture was the role of ancient sages, men who not only taught virtues, handing  down descriptions, cases of ethical dealing with various situations,  but also lived according to those virtues.   

The most important of these ancient sages was Confucius.  Confucius (Kongzi, or Kong Fuzi,) is thought to have been born in 551 BC.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confucius.  He was born to minor aristocracy, in the state of Lu, in northeast China, in what is now Shandong Province.  While he grew up in poverty, he gained reputation through his teachings of the value of proper conduct and righteousness, as well as for his practice of these virtues. Eventually, these values were recognized as useful by the ruling families of Lu, and he gained appointments and rose in the affairs of his state.  Seeking to strengthen the position of the ruling Duke of Lu over his hereditary vassals, he made enemies.  His successes were incomplete.  He went into exile at age 54, journeying about the neighboring kingdoms, expounding his teachings.  He returned to Lu when he was 68, where he spent his last years teaching to his disciples.

" One of the deepest teachings of Confucius may have been the superiority of personal exemplification over explicit rules of behavior. His moral teachings emphasized self-cultivation, emulation of moral exemplars, and the attainment of skilled judgment rather than knowledge of rules"...." His teachings rarely rely on reasoned argument and ethical ideals and methods are conveyed more indirectly, through allusion, innuendo, and even tautology.  His teachings require examination and context in order to be understood. " http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confucius

Confucius was, and in many respects still is, the model role model.  His importance rather belies his relatively modest biography.  Indeed, he is today  an object not only of emulation, but veneration.  Allowances, however, are now made for his place and time, and the importance he placed on ritual and in preserving the feudal order he was a part of is less emphasized. (Although he may have been radical in this, pushing the idea of rulers who would "succeed to power on the basis of their moral merits instead of lineage.")  However, his ethical teachings are still held in great respect, and widely practiced.  These are based three linked ideas: li  doing the proper thing at the proper time, yi, the idea of reciprocity:  "What you do not wish for yourself, do not do to others.  " and doing what is ethically best in a given situation, and ren, consisting of five virtues:  seriousness, generosity, sincerity, diligence and kindness. In order to properly act on these principles, the inner self must be cultivated.  Virtuous and sincere behavior begins with knowledge.  His major work, "The Analects," is prefaced with the Chinese character for 'study.'

An ethical culture, with an idea of goodness, righteousness, and propriety, existed prior to the development of monotheism.  It also exists in contemporary Chinese culture.

_____________________________

*Transliterations of  Chinese characters into Roman characters is problematic.  Although efforts to represent Chinese characters in Roman characters go back hundreds of years, it was really only in the 1950's that the modern  hanyu pinyin system was established. It has undergone several modifications since.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pinyin It is especially inexact without the symbols for the  tones of the Chinese vowels, which typical fonts do not render.  For example,  'shen' has 4 different pronunciations.  In pinyin, it can have any of four different tonal symbols over the e.  Each tonal symbol is a different pronunciation and a different word, with a different meaning.  'Shen'  can represent fourteen or so different characters, each different words, with meaning ranging from  deep and profound to explain, from god and spirit to ooze to reach and to kidney and to other meanings, depending on the pronunciation and character.   

8:45 pm est

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Consequences of the Ordering of Good and God

You are God.  Since You are God, if you believe in God, but you do not believe He is you, and you believe He is external to you, all morality either originates in, or is refracted by, this external image of the self. 

 

All morality thus comes from this externalized image of the self. This is a source of confusion, for it is an externalization of that which is in fact internal.  (Even those for whom no coherent image is formed, for instance Atheists, there is a projection onto the exterior and back again.)  Thus, it has the appearance of objectivity, when in fact it is purely subjective.  (Really it is you, doing what you want.)

 

This is not to imply that moral beliefs are not in some sense universal, but since they are subjective, they can only be poorly described objectively.  Thus when we try to say why this is good or why that is bad we are often at a loss for words, and when we are not, words often slide aside from the point we are trying to make.  This is because words are blunt instruments when focused on the unconscious operations of the brain. In particular, they are really only designed to describe that part of the brain which is verbal. 

 

But most of the brain is non-verbal. Much of morality is non-verbal. 

 

Even for those actions we clearly believe are wrong, such as murder and theft, we have difficulty describing with words why they are wrong.  Some say it is because God, who is good, said they were evil acts, which should not be done.  Others go right to the act itself, and say there is an objective standard of goodness, that murder and theft are not a part of. Some may say God may be an expression of this goodness, though others may say He is not necessary.

 

Often the reason professed is because we wouldn't want them to happen to us. But this makes morality merely a matter of self-interest, and we are not quite comfortable with that answer, either.     

 

When then we deal with goodness and God,  we imagine we are stuck with choice: Is good good because God says so, or is God good according to some objective standard of goodness? 

 

The order can only arbitrarily be determined, because they both arise from the unconscious mind.  Looking at it from the point of view of the psychological development of the child, there is seen to be a stage of development where they are identical:  Good is God and God is Good, (at least for monotheists,)  and the question of precedence arises only later as the concepts become separate in the developing child's mind.

 

It seems that at this stage belief could go either way.  But what is this process?  It is a decision in the child's mind, that one is defined in terms of the other.  Usually, for this is what is usually taught, and indeed what is easier to teach, good is defined in terms of God.  The question of precedence is a decision in the conscious mind of the child, which is later rendered unconscious, that is, 'forgotten' in the adult.   Since this order of precedence is unconscious, this is assumed to be natural.

 

Because the equality of 'God equals good' is unstable in the verbal mind, (is, in English anyway, implying something like "is contained in the set of all _____ things" as in "The ball is (contained in the set of all) round (things.)")  the mind, as it becomes more verbally sophisticated, settles on one order or the other.  This releases the tension implied with conceptual equality, since equality implies many more relationships and restrictions than that implied by "is contained in." This tension is released in what might be called either the right handed "good because God says so," or the  left handed "good the (absolute) standard which God upholds."  Good is God, vs God is good. The practical limitation of 'is' is an expression of this tension, not the cause.

 

So  normal development leads to a less sophisticated sense of moral order than that the child originally had, and this can only be recovered later in life.  This forms a conscious model for the mystic, and the recovery of the unity of the God Consciousness requires a backward movement along the path of development in all dimensions, the psychic un-separation and dis-ordering of the separations and orderings of idea formation that constitute normal development.    In the child's mind, only one path is taken, and the other path must be brought to contemplation to recover the symmetry.  In the moral case, the ideas of Good and God are separated and ordered, one above the other.  Indeed, the psychological ordering of these concepts, and other concepts which were originally degenerate, whichever combinations are chosen, become a barrier to higher consciousness.  

  

This actual equality becomes apparent because neither ordering bears close scrutiny,  The arbitrary God is nevertheless constrained by requirements of reality. The arbitrary God, (and He is arbitrary) cannot make arbitrary evil a virtue, because in a very real absolute sense, it is not.  It is incompatible with a stable society.   The subservient to good God has options due to 'necessity,' and can also deal mercy and justice arbitrarily, so is not so constrained as He first appears.

 

So words conveniently describe the result of this release, but not the original state.  (Think of it like this: Is good alive, or is God inanimate?  But then, we have the living word, the word made flesh, etc.)  In fact, it is only with difficulty and practice that the idea of the equality of God and good can be maintained in the mind at all, since sensible descriptions, using words, imply one relationship or the other. If one does not choose one ordering or the other, the mind tends instead toward a dualism where under some conditions one description applies, while under different conditions the other description applies.

 

Equality is difficult, because the concepts are not identical types in the mind.  Note the  conceptual splitting:  One part becomes person, the other object.  In the original state these were conflated.  That is, to the very young child, inanimate objects were perceived as alive, and persons, and the differentiation as the child ages parallels and confirms the separation and ordering of the concepts.

 

This splitting is modeled on the original noun/verb (object/action) splitting, which comes earlier.  In the undeveloped mind these were originally fused. This is not in the sense of being mixed, but rather being in one higher undifferentiated state which, with more experience, breaks in two: One, noun, 'above' the other, verb.  Indeed, the general process is one of successive symmetry breaking, as each concept, or category, is broken into sub-categories, as a result of either  internal pressure, or external tension. Verbal development both drives and is driven by this maturing.

 

 We described the tension involved in the equality, and the two orderings of the concepts of good and God that result.  Since we are limited to words, let us describe in more detail the different systems of belief, the consequences of each ordering.   On the right, where good is defined by God, we have whatever God does is good, and whatever He says is good, is good.  God is the final arbiter.  He thus has license to be completely arbitrary, and virtuous behavior is derived from that arbitrary system of good and evil that God has established. That is, good and evil, in this ordering, are arbitrary, and the earthly and heavenly system of reward and punishment are bent to conform to this.  Stealing and murder are bad not because they are inherently bad, or destructive, but only because God says they are.  Philosophical discussions of good and evil are properly discussions of God's motives. Murder and theft may be virtuous, if God, or rather such authority as represents Him, says so. Thus, if God says: "Kill this one," or "Take from that one," is good, then the authoritarian individual has not only license, but duty to act.   

 

 Contrast this with the left hand view, that there is some absolute standard of good and evil, "out there," to which God, by definition of being good, conforms.  Stealing and murder are inherently bad, and the rewards and punishments of heaven and earth reflect this.  They are in a sense automatic.  God is law giver, but not law maker. Thus, God would not say "Kill this one," or "Take from that one," except out of necessity, for these acts are intrinsically evil. They cannot  be made virtuous, but only necessary. One cannot act out of retribution, but only out of prevention of further depredation.    

 

In their social and psychological consequences of these two orderings are not equivalent.

 

One social consequence of the authoritarian ordering is seen in the death penalty. Those states where the people see good as defined by God tend to see execution as virtuous, and thus tend to do it more frequently, and with greater enthusiasm than states where there is a greater tendency to see good as defining God, where killing, even of the evil, is always seen as an evil.  We also see a greater tendency to severity of punishment of law in authoritarian states. There is also a greater acceptance of the order of things.

 

But remember, these are all justified by projections of the self, which is God.  The authoritarian God is thus, in a sense, more liberating, since He makes a virtue of the self's expressions of, (that is, His expressions of,)  negative emotions, where the authoritative God, even under the 'proper' circumstances, only grudgingly grants permission, to the self, for these to be acted upon.  The authoritative individual is thus more restrained, even to the point of repression of these negative emotions themselves, since any action on them tends more to be frustrated.      

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Welcome God!

     For that is who You are.  Whether or not You choose to believe that You are God,
the One God, that of course is your divine prerogative.
     As for the reality, You are God, whether You want to be or not.  So Welcome!

Here You will find some answers to some questions You may have about Your divine nature, and the nature of Your creation.

     If you are
satisfied with your
life, your faith,your
God, you are
commanded not to
 read this.
But of course,
who am I to
 command You?

           
There is only God.

 God is known by
His works. 



Faith and belief comprise a very important part of our lives. A person's beliefs in many ways define who they are -- how they see themselves, what they want out of life, and more.

On this web site I'll offer a personal account of my own beliefs. I'll describe how my beliefs have changed my life in profound and exciting ways, and how I think they might change the lives of others.

I'll also be sure to provide links to my favorite sites as well as information about organizations that help strengthen or support my beliefs., or provide interesting contrast.
 
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